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Bonifica integrale – English version

An integral reclamation

It was a work for titans to free an area of 134 thousand hectares from putrid and stagnant waters. A flow of settlers from Veneto, Friuli and Emilia Romagna came to help. 18 big water pumps were used for the enormous work. Over 3 thousand settler’s houses were built.

Until the 20s the marsh ruled sovereign; it was crossed by pocks in the area between Cisterna and Terracina, the localities’ names recall gloomy places: Hellish Mud, the Mud of Death, the Dead Female, Caronte, Pool’s Tomb. In 1918 the Genio Civile di Roma concluded the studies for the integral hydraulic reclamation of the Agro Pontino and the flooded area of the Agro Romano. The reclamation was given to two Consortium: the Bonificazione Pontina, which started its work in 1923, and the Bonifica di Littoria, which started its work 3 years later. The actual activity started in 1927 and the tasks to fulfil were titanic because it was all about regulating and draining the waters on an area that was big about 135 thousand hectares: 77 thousand of them were part of the Agro Pontino itself. On this last one, the depressions on the territory caused the formation of numerous pools, filled with putrid waters and up to 10 meters deep. These were very dangerous because deceptive and misleading. At the end of the reclamation, 18 big water pumps were used, 16,165 km of canals of created of re-activated, 1,360 km of roads, 3,040 settlers’ houses built, and 4,500 groundwater and artesian wells drilled: according to today’s value, this work must have been around 30 billion Euro.  Beyond the reclamation works, the activities that aimed to create the conditions and facilities necessary to make the Agro habitable were also initiated.

The Opera Nazionale Combattenti oversaw the division of the valley in land units of different sizes according to the fertility of the area and around 20 hectares for every familiar group to which was given also a settler’s house (the podere) equipped with civil and agricultural services. Between the months of October and November of 1932, it started the immigration of 60 thousand farmers from Veneto, Friuli, Emilia Romagna, who had to inhabit the reclaimed area. At first, the poderi were given to them in sharecropping, then, since 1942, to ransom. Every 100 poderi was built a firm which had to evolve autonomously. Today there still are populous centres which keep their agricultural vocation: the names of the poderi recall the locations of the First World War which are Borgo Isonzo, Borgo Grappa, Borgo Piave, Borgo Montello, Borgo Faiti, Borgo San Michele, Borgo Montenero, Borgo Pasubio, Borgo Vodice e Borgo Hermada.

The activity that was aiming to better the life conditions was going hand in hand with the built of the poderi. Angelo Celli and Giambattista Grassi had been studying the terrible anopheles mosquito against which centres for prophylaxis and quinine were fighting. Celli and Grassi had opened schools that were following the apostolate work of Giovanni Cena. Cena was a dedicated teacher, gifted with will and a meaning of school which elevates the teaching job to a mission. In the years previous the First World War, Cena looked for students all over the marsh. He went to poor farmers families, challenging the malaria to bring a good word and some light in the lodges of the Agro. Thanks to the school Casal Delle Palme (1927) analfabetism was being fought. Poets, artist, teachers and doctors worked along the side of Cena: Giacomo Boni, Angelo Celli, Alessandro Marcucci, Sibilla Alleramo, Duilio Cambellotti, painter and sculpture who left, in Casal Delle Palme, on the Appia Road, between Cisterna and the Latina intersection, 6 painting that show the life in the marsh.